Fellowship meal

Men and women from this Seventh Day Adventist congregation take turns giving a talk as part of the worship service. Today’s leader is the spitting image of my uncle, a retired geologist whose full beard and lanky frame belies a more conservative interior. This version’s right pant leg is still cinched from biking. He begins his talk with a slide show from a recent hike. He clicks through shots of mountains and boulders and lakes. He stops on a screen with a quote from Psalms, “Seek ye my face.” With tears in his eyes, he tells us: “Mrs. White wrote that the natural world offers a front row seat on the face of God.”

He clicks through to a slide of sunlight reflected in ripples of water. He wipes his eyes, “To quote White: ‘God is love’ is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass.” He turns to take in his own photo. He says, “Look how beautiful it is…” so earnestly that I feel a lump form in my throat.

The service culminates in a big feast, or what the program calls a “fellowship meal.” We file into the kitchen area where someone has set out no fewer than 20 dishes. It’s a vegetarian smorgasbord. I have never seen so many variations of zucchini in one place. I fill my plate and take a seat with everyone else at a long table, family style. I can almost imagine that beyond these walls the earth has been destroyed but we faithful are happily eating the yummy produce from our post-apocalyptic gardens. If I should survive such a catastrophic event, this wouldn’t be bad company to keep.

Like much in this denomination, the end result is progressive; though, I’m not certain if the same can be said of the logic used to get there. White encouraged congregants to give up tobacco and alcohol not for health reasons but because these items “stirred up animal passions.” She promoted vegetarianism, not to prevent the killing of animals but because she believed meat carried “disease-producing humors.” She argued that women should trade in their street-scraping dresses for shorter skirts worn over pantaloons. She intended for women to stay healthy to better honor God, but her fashion suggestions allowed for freer movement.

Different paths can lead to the same spot. I generally think of organic gardening and veganism as ways of life for those on the left end of the political spectrum, but here I’m learning it can also be part of a conservative Christian vision, a step toward recreating Eden on earth. I’ve often considered Jesus a symbol for those on the right, but much of what he stood for is embraced by the left.

If we are lucky, we end up together in a place where the beauty of the world breaks our hearts and we are overwhelmed with gratitude.

It makes me wonder if there isn’t more common ground than I think.

7 thoughts on “Fellowship meal

  1. I dream of a World where people come together, NOT in the name of false God(s), but for the purer motives of associating with their fellow humans, without needing a pretense to do so. I can dream, can’t I? 🙂

    Commonality comes by finding the ROOTS of truths, and sources of beliefs, removing the false superficial layers to get to truths.

    Theism remains with us as a vestigial organ built on historic precedence (AKA tradition, the way we’ve ALWAYS done it!), and hence is something that’s not needed, outmoded, and arguably harmful, as the burden it extols only crowds out other possibilities.

  2. People take different roads to find happiness and fulfillment. Just because a person isn’t on your road doesn’t mean they’re lost.
    -The Dalai Lama. I find application of these words in your comments. I’m glad you became aware of the deep feelings that came up for you during his presentation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll become a Seventh Day Adventist but you found a place in you that has deep feeling for things that inspire a sense of spirituality. Hold on to that as you create your own tapestry of what being spiritual means to you.

  3. Corinna, Jesus stood for much that is on both the left and the right of the political spectrum in this nation. Your observations are so right. Perhaps it can be understood in a word used in the Bible. Your blog doesn’t accept Greek so this is transliterated: “dikaiosunh.” The word means both righteousness and justice. It’s the whole package and both are central to God, Jesus, and the message of the Bible. So why do we divide these areas? Why do we weigh one as more important than the other, and worse than that, tend to diminish the view opposite our particular view, as if it holds no merit? Why are we so polarized?

    • Sometimes I think we’re polarized because we haven’t learned that there are other groups who believe in a similar way. I know some people who were either raised in or became later converts to another religion who had never investigated the possibility that there is more than one group of people who think in a similar manor. The groups themselves don’t sit down together to negotiate differences and find areas that are the same. It’s one of the things that I believe Corinna’s search is showing us. With the exception of a few differences here and there and some of them quite minor, people could gather together in a greater way. A few years ago I attended a Thanksgiving interfaith service where each minister gave a five minute Thanksgiving message. Some were not Christian ministers. Some were American Indians, some Hindu and some Buddhist but, of course the larger group were from some segment of Christianity. There was so much that was alike. A large group attended and everyone had a grand time.

    • Hi Ginger: You likely know the answer to the polarization: we live by our own self-centered agendas rather than God’s goodness, rightness, and justice. We have so many agendas….it defies description!

      Corinna, My mom’s sister was an adventist. She was one of the most godly women I ever knew…..always a joy to be around. She took the vegetarian diet seriously, but always looked at it as simply a wise health choice, not something to earn brownie points with God by (as some do).

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